A Lesson in “Menu Speak”

Chef Knife

Even though our cuisine is Mediterranean inspired, Chef Bill uses a lot of classical French techniques in his cooking, and sometimes there’s just no succinct way to explain a dish on the menu other than to use the classic term.

The French have beautiful words to express their food, sometimes referring to how things are cut, as in the case of lardon or chiffonade, and other times a preparation.

These are some of the terms you might run into on either our specials or regular menu.

Batonnet – this describes food that has been cut into long, narrow shapes, generally ½ inch by ½ inch by 2½ to 3 inches, like a stick or baton. A white bread loaf that is shorter than a baguette is often referred to as a batonnet also.

Buerre rouge – a simple, butter-based (buerre) emulsified sauce made with pan drippings and red wine and red vinegar, hence the “rouge” or “red.”

Chiffonade – thin strips or ribbons of vegetables, leafy greens, or large leafy herbs such as basil. It is commonly used as garnish. The French word “chiffon” refers to rags; though we don’t speak French, it may be fair to say the term literally means “made of rags.”

Coulis – a thick sauce made of pureed and strained fruit or vegetables, often used as a garnish. It can be sweet or savory, to pair with desserts or meat and vegetable dishes.

Demi – a rich, highly concentrated brown sauce, often used to flavor other sauces.

Lardon – a strip or small chunk of fat, typically pork, that is added to food to create a rich, salty flavor. Lardons might be added to the vegetables and meats when first browning; a lardon strip can be “threaded” into a piece of meat to help keep it moist while it cooks; lardons can also be cooked until they are crispy to add texture and flavor as sprinkled onto salads, quiches, and a variety of dishes.

Lyonnaise – this simply means “cooked with onions,” as in the style from Lyons, France. It may also refer to a white wine and onion sauce. Lyonnaise potatoes are sliced, pan-fried potatoes sautéed with thinly sliced onions in butter and parsley.

Mousseline – any sauce or dish based on meat, fish, shellfish or foie gras, to which whipped cream or beaten egg whites have been added just before serving so that it has a light, airy consistency and texture.

Nage – an aromatic stock in which delicate foods, typically seafood, are poached and served. Traditionally it is flavored with white wine, vegetables and herbs; then it is reduced and thickened with a bit of cream and/or butter.

Veloute – a stock-based white sauce, typically made from chicken or veal stock or fish fumet, thickened with white roux. Think of it as a variation of béchamel, where instead of milk being added to the roux, a light stock is used. Egg yolks or cream may also be added for enrichment. (In case you’re wondering, a roux is a mixture of equal parts fat and flour cooked together and used for thickening sauces and soups.)

When in doubt, just ask your server; we are always happy to elaborate on the dish, and want to make sure you understand what you’re ordering.

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